The University of Birmingham’s Cross Country teams held trophies aloft as they were crowned BUCS Men’s and Women’s Team Champions for the first time in eight years in Sussex on Saturday.
Jonny Hay also reclaimed the trophy he won three years ago in the Men’s race in a Birmingham 1-2 ahead of teammate Johnny Davies, after the pair finished second and third last year.
Meanwhile, Becky Straw, Rebecca Murray and Tessa McCormick achieved crucial finishes that allowed the Women’s team to finish first overall for the fourth year in a row.
The afternoon started off eventfully as rain had left muddy patches along the hilly course in Stanmer Park, adjacent to the University of Sussex campus. Jonny Hay had only made his decision to run the day before the event, and found himself in the leading group alongside Johnny Davies in the early stages of the 12km Men’s A race.
There was an anxious wait until the pair came out of the woods, down the hill and onto the finishing straight in first and second. They were cheered on enthusiastically by nearly 100 members from the club who travelled down from the Midlands to the south coast for the weekend, complete with face paint, megaphones and even a trumpet.
After the race, Hay, who ran a time of 38:51, praised the team atmosphere, and explained how he had received cuts to his shoulder after falling into a bush on the first lap. He and Davies (39:00) ran a smart race, making the most of the wind and pushing up the hills to break away from the competition.
It was a result that Captain Will Gray, who was unable to compete due to an ankle injury, said afterwards had ‘capped off his university career.’ Tom Jervis, Ed Shepherd, Toby Smith and Mark Pearce, who was a last minute call up to the A Team, all made the top 40.
With the gauntlet thrown down to the women, Rebecca Murray was up front alongside four time European Junior Cross Country Champion Emelia Gorecka in the early stages. After a close race, she eventually finished 7th in 23:58 with Becky Straw eight seconds ahead of her in 4th. Tessa McCormick rounded off the scorecard in 12th, with Alice Burgin, Zoe Chandler and Victoria Walker close behind.
Moments later there was another roar from the BUAC contingent as we learned that that was enough for Birmingham to defend their women’s title, ahead of rivals St Mary’s University.
The final Men’s B race was something of a procession for St Mary’s, as they filled the first four places. Birmingham’s Ben Alcock ran a composed race to end up 5th, with Lloyd Heckler, Brad Wattleworth and Alexander Brampton guiding the team to bronze medals.
The results gave everyone a licence to enjoy themselves at the after-party following the day’s running in the unkind cold and muddy conditions. Women’s Captain Molly Riglin summed up the day by admitting she ‘definitely did not expect’ so much success when BurnFM spoke to her earlier in the week.
It’s a busy month ahead for the Athletics team, with the Gatorade National Finals coming up in three weeks’ time.